Greg Abbott Exclusive: Hot seat Tottenham will be lucky if they get hot water!
21:30 GMT, 25 September 2012
Greg Abbott points to the Brunton Park away dug-out where Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas, his staff and subs will sit on Wednesday night.
'I must remember to switch on the heated seats,' he says. Of course there are no heated seats at Carlisle United. Just 15 plastic seats, possibly borrowed from a local school, nailed to the wall and floor, covered by a concrete bunker.
The pitch is immaculate, one of the best in the country, certain to survive the deluge which has hit Cumbria and suited to Tottenham's passing. But there's not much else to Brunton Park, as the Spurs millionaires will discover.
Warming the bench: Carlisle will host Tottenham in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night
'It doesn't have all the joys and comforts of White Hart Lane,' says Abbott. 'It's pretty basic. When Huddersfield came a couple of years ago their coach Derek Fazackerley got very upset because there was no hot water.
'He came charging into our dressing room after they'd lost, ranting and raving – which is very brave for the opposition – demanding hot water. There was some in the shower in my office, but you can't guarantee it up here in November. We' ve had a laugh about it since. 'But I can assure you we will have hot running water for the Spurs lads. I think… '
A home tie may present Carlisle with their best chance of pulling off a League Cup shock over the four times winners, but Abbott and his club might have preferred a tie in North London.
Change of scenery: The Premier League giants will make the trip to League One side Carlisle
They hope to make approximately 50,000, but an away tie could have been seven times that amount, enough to keep this club afloat for three years and give Abbott some rare spending money. His entire squad cost 60,000, the amount he paid Bohemians for striker Paddy Madden who is now struggling to cement a place in the side.
He has been overtaken by Mark Beck and David Symington, two 18-year-olds from the School of Excellence on 150-a-week who both scored their first senior goals in their third games to knock Ipswich out of the last round. Keeper Mark Gillespie, rejected by Newcastle at 16, is the youngest in the Football League.
Abbott said: 'They've given the whole city and club a lift. This club discovered the likes of Matt Jansen, Rory Delap, Leon Osman. But it takes times and money and our youth coach Eric Kinder has done brilliantly.
Keeping up appearances: Mark Gillespie, rejected by Newcastle at 16, is the youngest in the Football League
'We'd love to have an academy but the most important thing is what happens on that pitch now. That's the reality.'
At three years and 328 days, former Bradford and Hull midfielder Abbott is the ninth longest serving manager in the English league. He is No 1 in League One's chart, leading Leyton Orient's Russell Slade by more than 18 months.
'I've always been at this level but it's madness,' he says. 'You spend your time avoiding traffic and eventually something gets you.
In training: The League One outfit would have made a small fortune if the tie had been at White Hart Lane
'You really have to survive your first year. This country has the biggest fall-out of first-time managers. We have lost too many good young coaches which can't be good for the British game.
'This is my first job and the brutal reality is I will either get the sack or go to a better job. And I've told the chairman that.'
He has worked in the top flight, starting his coaching career at Leeds United's academy in the late 90s.
'The first day I went down for lunch, there was so much smoked salmon, steaks, king prawns, seven inch-long langoustines, I asked David O'Leary and Eddie Gray who was getting married.'
Cash flow: The entire Carlisle squad cost a mere 60,000
'He rang me on a private number, and said “Greg. It's Alex.” I said “Alex who” “Sir Alex,” he said.
It's rather different to lunch now. Abbott has installed a toastie maker and is head chef.
laundry lady Emma had to put a chair in the room because she said I'm a
great cook but a very messy one. It's usually ham, cheese and onion and
if we're feeling healthy we have tomatoes. So we don't have tomatoes
League One clubs like Carlisle still have to compete with the Premier League for different reasons. Carlisle's home attendance fell by 1,500 within four days last week when fans had a choice between a Tuesday night home match with Crewe or the televised Real Madrid v Manchester City Champions League clash.
'Which would you choose' he admitted. 'Nights like that cripple us financially and it's tough.'
Net gains: But Abbott is unhappy with his side's sluggish start to the season
This week started with a gym session with his players and a new fitness coach, a sports science student from Bolton University, hired for virtually nothing to help with his studies.
'Our MD John Nixon was delighted,' Abbott said. 'He told me I could get two at that price.'
Physio Neil Dalton is also in the small, sweaty room, but spends most of his time trying to fix a`sled', the new piece of training equipment which players have to drag across the floor, after locating the club's only tool kit.
Abbott and his assistant Graham Kavanagh, the former Ireland international, then move to the pitches behind the ground, next to the River Eden which bursts its banks three years ago, flooding the pitches. Funds were found to rebuild and protect them.
Paperwork: The Carlisle boss is preparing his side for the visit of Tottenham
Abbott is unhappy with the sluggish start. He is renowned for enjoying a laugh but growls from the centre circle, then paces the sidelines. His humour is well-known. Just ask Roberto Mancini, fellow award winner at a Manchester dinner last year and neighbour on the top table.
Abbott, recently overlooked for a return to Hull and home-town Coventry, said: 'We'd won the Johnstone Paints Trophy and I got talking to Roberto. I've built up a good relationship with David Platt – he told me to sign Chris Chantler from City who has been terrific for us – and we had a good chat. I'd had a couple of pints so I was talking Italian, I think.
'When it was my turn to get up for our award, I turned to Roberto and said “not being funny Roberto but with Tevez and 120million I could win the FA Cup. You want to try win the Johnstone Paints and get out of League One with Danny Livesey and one point boss-all”. He loved it. When I sat back down he shook my hand and said “hey, I love Livesey!”
Sir Alex Ferguson was an award winner that night too and Abbott is on the Christmas card list thanks to his treatment of several young United players on loan.
'He rang me on a Sunday night, private number, and said “Greg. It's Alex.” I said “Alex who” “Sir Alex,” he said. I was suddenly sweating, pacing the house as he thanked us for how we'd looked after James Chester.
'He said “it's up to you if you play him tomorrow but we are selling James to Hull the following day so you might not want to play him.” So I said “you're basically saying you don't want me to play him then.” Sir Alex said “you're going to go a long way in management, son because you learn very quickly.”
'I know we can ring United and ask about a player if we need one because they know they will be treated properly here and they will play games. That relationship means the world to me.'
He would love to put out a side tonight including just some of the names he has had to sell – Kieren Westwood, Ian Harte, Danny Graham, Adam Clayton, Gary Madine – but he is more than content with his lot.
He said: 'If I could put out that side we'd win this division by March and get where we want to be in the Championship.
'But we are proud to see those lads in the Premier League and it means we have survived. We are not swimming in money, of course we'd like more, but we are not in desperate trouble.
'We're still at the right end of the division, still improving year on year and hopefully one day we'll get there.'